Newsletter December 2015

Looking back

One very apologetic artistic director here, who has been meaning to write a summer season round-up for some time now.  Summer quickly turned into autumn, which in turn brought our touring production and, excitingly, our second Young Singers’ Competition.

Firstly, the summer.  If you haven’t yet seen the fabulous reviews of Salieri’s Trofonio’s Cave - another UK première for us – please do have a look at the link.  They sum up the excitement and sheer musical joy of working on this absolutely top-rate piece.  The cast – four returning singers as well as Christopher Turner and Matthew Stiff making their company débuts - was superb, and we also welcomed back Paul Wingfield, this time as conductor.  Four other new faces – Marek Ruszczynski (repetiteur), Triona Adams (movement director), Vikki Medhurst (wardrobe) and assistant stage manager Marieke Bernard-Berkel – completed the creative team.  Director Jeremy Gray set the opera – about pairs of lovers and their unintentional metamorphoses – simultaneously in Downton Abbey times and the swinging sixties, by imaginative use of a rather familiar-looking police box.

Many of you will know that visa problems sadly prevented Anna Starushkevych from singing in the last two performances, but in turn they provided extraordinary opportunities for the three people who covered for her.  Mezzo-soprano Catherine Backhouse has been rewarded for sounding after only two days as if she had been rehearsing the music for months by an offer of a part in next year’s opera – more on that below.  Meanwhile, the aforementioned Marieke made her stage début acting the role to great critical acclaim – not bad for one who had never actually seen the opera (having been backstage for all performances) and for whom English is not her first language. Thanks must also go to soprano Nathalie Chalkley who acted for the Westonbirt performance.

Mid-August saw us rehearsing for our second production of the season, Haydn’s The Apothecary. We were thrilled to have been invited to put on a performance in the impressively historic Apothecaries’ Hall, near Blackfriars in London, for the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Apothecaries Act.  We were also invited to perform again at Wotton House, at the indefatigable David Gladstone’s series Music at Wotton, an absolute favourite of ours where we are guaranteed an extremely warm welcome and an enthusiastically-informed audience.  Toby Purser returned to conduct and again we welcomed two new singers – Rebecca Goulden and Daniel Auchincloss – to our cast of four.  Our period-instrument orchestra Bampton Classical Players was a joy.

The highlight of the autumn was our second Young Singers’ Competition.  Standards were incredibly high and the judges really did have some challenging decisions; first prize was awarded to Galina Averina, a student on the opera course at the RCM, and second prize to Céline Forrest, who earlier this year represented Wales in the Cardiff Singer of the World competition.  The final, at Oxford’s historic Holywell Music Room, was an intensely special evening and all six finalists were excellent.

Looking ahead

Firstly to the St Beornwald’s day concert, which is back to the usual 21 December this year.  It is the inaugural concert of our new professional a capella octet Bampton Classical Voices.  The concert is entitled In dulci jubilo! – Christmas music for voices and harp and will feature music from the Renaissance to the 20th-century, including Benjamin Britten’s enduring masterpiece A Ceremony of Carols in which we will be joined by harpist Rita Schindler.  It starts at 7.30pm and as always you can enjoy Jacky Allinson’s incomparable mulled wine both before and during the concert.

2016 is the quatercentenary of Shakespeare’s death.  Surprisingly little music of ‘our’ period is Shakespearean but it is also not an occasion to allow to pass un-noticed.  The London concert venue St John’s Smith Square has invited us to give a celebratory concert on 12 June 2016.  In the first half we will be performing excerpts from Benda’s Romeo and Juliet – those with long memories might recall that we performed this in the summer of 2007 in Bampton church, to an audience of about 30 and a powercut, the rest of the village having been cut off by flooding.  To say the music is ravishing would be an understatement, and this is a great chance to hear highlights again.  The second half will feature a remarkable piece by the 20-year old Thomas Linley. Called Ode on the Fairies, Witches and Aerial Beings of Shakespeare, it is a celebratory oratorio-like piece loosely based on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth and The Tempest.  The music is magnificent and relatively few people know it.  Artistic director Gilly French conducts soloists Rosalind Coad, Caroline Kennedy and James Harrison, the London-based chamber choir Cantandum and the Bampton Classical Players.  The concert starts at 3pm and booking is now open (020 7222 1061 or

We spent a long time deliberating what should follow the success of last summer’s Salieri, and have landed upon a comedy double-bill of Gluck’s Philemon and Baucis (another UK premiere) and Arne’s The Judgment of Paris.  As ever the music is lyrical, varied and enticing as well as very funny.

Support us!

An Evening with David Mellor: Wednesday 2 March 2016
The Rt Hon David Mellor QC is a broadcaster, journalist, businessman and former MP.  He writes about opera and classical music for The Mail on Sunday and is a regular presenter on Classic FM.  This most entertaining and convivial fundraising event is being hosted at the splendid Caledonian Club, 9 Halkin St, London SW1X 7DR, by our Chairman, Hilary Reid Evans.

The Friends
We have a growing group of Friends of Bampton Classical Opera - through membership you can not only support our work but also meet like-minded people at convivial events, including post-performance events and our annual Friends reception.  There are several tiers of membership, each with associated benefits, and we are particularly grateful to our Corinthian Friends, but every single membership makes a difference.  Please do consider joining us!

Other support
If you would like to support without becoming a friend, you can do this in a number of ways:

• Make a donation – see the ‘support us’ page of our website
• Company support – become a Corporate Friend
• Advertise your business in our programme
• Help in kind – accommodate a singer, help with cast catering or with event organisation
• Spread the word!